The Force Of Life
Record label: (independent release)
Format: CD
Release date: fall 2003

When you hear the phrase “open thought,” you think of an open mind, the action of having various points of view or being receptive to them. The crew that consists of Baba Israel, Yako, and DJ Center are three individuals that combine various skills and talents to create thoughtful, fun, and accessible music that provides many points of view without watering down the images or the messages. These three accomplished musicians representing New York City (Yako on percussion and bass; DJ Center on the turntables; and Baba as beat boxer, emcee, and master of the didgeridoo) combine their love of hip-hop, music, and activism with an organic sound that is warm and inviting.

The self-contained crew has put out their second project completely independent, and the quality of the production and music is top-notch. Baba is an accomplished emcee, poet, performer, and activist - you only get a taste of what he can do vocally on this album (anyone who has seen his live shows can attest to this). The album expresses love, unity, and grass roots activism as well as showcasing the B-Boy talents of the crew. The title track provides upbeat bass by Yako, with live trumpets from Michael Irwin and Baba making sure you live life to the fullest. As he speaks about the pitfalls of mainstream imagery and the importance of living in the moment, Center fills in with precision cuts and scratches. The album moves to the track “Changes.” Baba reflects on life as well as telling a quick story of scorned lovers and the loss of their baby. Beautiful keys and vocal samples provide a backdrop that wraps itself around Baba’s rhymes. The refrain punctuates the song: “everything changes / nothing remains the same / the way of the universe / the rules of the game.” “Eyes Open” and “Move” provide a lighter vibe that reflects the warmness of Open Thought’s music. “Beat box Love” and “Didge Break” again show the crew flexing their diverse talents of beat boxing, DJing, and didgeridoo playing respectively.

“War Poem” and “Black Music” give you a glimpse of Baba’s dedication to not only the history of his craft, but also to the global community. As he reflects on “NYC,” “I’m not bi-coastal, I’m bi-global” and his open views reflect that (as well as his roots in Australia). One of the better tracks on the album is “Cold Cut,” Baba’s story of a young black man wronged and caught in circumstances with the police. The Force of Life is a complete album giving you a little bit of everything without diminishing the power of the words or the force of the rhythms. If you are looking for an album that not only makes you move but makes you think, reflect, and smile, then look no further.

{mikal lee [hired gun]}

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